Not until recently, I’ve always thought being vulnerable was pathetic, a sign of weakness. It took me a while to accept that it was okay to not be okay. That it wasn’t a failure on my part if I was struggling with something, internally or externally. I think people need to know that. Last week, I watched this talk about how embracing our vulnerability is what makes us alive. For all that it is a secular talk given in a secular context, I’d say it hits the nail on the head when it comes to the ‘truths’ about life. To be vulnerable is to allow ourselves to be seen, by others just as we are. Life would be pretty miserable if we were to keep our guard up all the time, even amidst the people who genuinely care about us. It’s about being perfectly all right with our imperfections, acknowledging that they’re there and fully embracing them in making up who we are as individuals. There were snippets of the talk that stood out most to me; the examples of what it meant to be vulnerable. It’s about the willingness to say “I love you” first, the willingness to do something when there are no guarantees, the willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out etc. It takes real strength of character to be able to do these and just the sheer lack of the need to ‘pad’ our lives with perfection/excellence for security against failures/mistakes is something I really admire.
In other words, having the courage to be imperfect.
Having been brought up in a society where competition percolates right down even to the insignificant things in life and where excellence is everything, it is difficult to take the opposite stance. While I’ve always wondered what was wrong with me for not being the typical perfection-striving student with stellar grades like most people were back home, I’ve had to be reminded of there being a reason for my shortcomings in life, even if I didn’t quite fit in academically with the rest. The last few years have been the most trying time of my life, in every sense of the word. Although I couldn’t see it at that time, there was a belief that was slowly but surely building up in me that I was imperfect for a reason. Each struggle and each tough experience reinforced and affirmed that belief that now stands in me that mistakes and flaws shouldn’t be buried or denied out of shame. They make up the essence of who we are. As John Mayer, one of my favourite singers just because his lyrics are amazing, puts it:
“When you got hurt, it made you beautiful
the cracks around your heart, they let the light shine through.
When you got hurt, in pieces on the floor
you put them back together even better than before.”
And yes, I am one of those who firmly believe that this very vulnerability is what makes us beautiful. I’ve read enough dystopian novels to know that the concept of a perfect, unblemished absolute beauty is nightmarish in and of itself. The idea of something that is “too perfect”. Often, we get scared when our shortcomings are exposed; the fear of being inadequate (or more accurately, the fear of being perceived as such) chills us to the bone. The mere appearance of flawless beauty and performance is just plain superficial and ‘plastic’ to me. There’s nothing human about it. I don’t know about humans but there is something in vulnerability that draws us to each other.
An article entitled “10 Things I love about my husband” that I read earlier this week struck a chord within me with the following passage:
“It’s human nature to love things that need us. That’s why we surround ourselves with creatures that are basically furry balls of need with fangs (needs that are usually voiced in the form of querulous demands).
Maybe it’s human nature to love things that need us because providing for others’ needs gives us the opportunity to feel strong. And feeling strong may be how we learn to love ourselves.
Strength doesn’t see others in the shapes made of need and fear. Strength gives others the space to be vulnerable. Strength seeks out opportunities to earn trust.
In fact, strength can’t exist in the absence of need. In oneself, in others.
So the final reason I love my husband? The one that sums it all up:
10. His vulnerability.
There’s a certain type of vulnerability that’s masculine. It’s a lot harder to pin down simply because of our ingrained gender binary that says, “women=vulnerable/men=invulnerable.”
But it’s there, waiting to be discovered.
I love that being vulnerable is an incredible act of trust. His being vulnerable is a demonstration of trust in my strength and my ability to give him a place to feel safe.
And the gift of allowing me to be strong for him is the greatest gift of all.”
This lady put expressed the thoughts I had trouble articulating properly, even though I don’t have a husband per se. Being a female puts me automatically under the category of vulnerability by default. Hence, the terms “the weaker sex” and the “fairer sex”. But we forget that vulnerability isn’t gender specific. It actually binds us together in ties and relationships that function by need.
Over the years, I’ve learnt that it is through vulnerability and imperfection that God’s perfection is best manifested. Our vulnerability is not without reason. One of the verses that never fails to encourage me, especially when the going gets tough is:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)